Introverts and Extroverts at Church

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I’ve been slowly reading a book called Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh. As an introvert myself, I’ve found it to be a fantastic book. Every few pages there’s some anecdote that has me nodding along and saying, “Yes! I’ve been there!” I’m also finding that whenever I mention this book in Christian company the introverts in the room start to perk up and want to know more.

One thing that this book is instilling in my heart is that the church direly needs people spanning the spectrum of personality type. Right now the Church—in the United States at least—seems to prize the extrovert personality as the one true personality type. From what we call the ideal pastor down to how we teach people to evangelize, it’s primarily an extroverts game. It’s a shame though because that philosophy in turn makes it harder for some of the Church’s members to feel they can utilize their gifts effectively for the kingdom.

I don’t have a grand conclusion (after all, I’m not done with the book), but I did want to ask a few questions while they’re fresh on my mind.

For everyone: think about how your church practices openness to the variety of personalities walking through the door. Take a basic example: the time before and after church. Do you create a place for the contemplative person to prepare for worship? Or is it set up like a mixer? (If you’ve never thought of this before, have you ever wondered why some portion of the congregation tends to show up late and leave early?)

For the introverts reading this: what are some ways you feel like the church has supported you? We could come up with negative stories all day long, but I think it’s important to call out ways in which the church has been successful.

Today’s Devotional: Boldly Going Forward

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Would you characterize your life as “bold”? In this Morning and Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon, we’re challenged to be bold in all that we do:

Dear friend, are you already saved? Then keep not back from union with the Lord’s people. Neglect not the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. You may be of a timid disposition, but you must strive against it, lest it lead you into disobedience. There is a sweet promise made to those who confess Christ—by no means miss it, lest you come under the condemnation of those who deny Him. If you have talents keep not back from using them. Hoard not your wealth, waste not your time; let not your abilities rust or your influence be unused. Jesus kept not back, imitate Him by being foremost in self-denials and self-sacrifices. Keep not back from close communion with God, from boldly appropriating covenant blessings, from advancing in the divine life, from prying into the precious mysteries of the love of Christ. Neither, beloved friend, be guilty of keeping others back by your coldness, harshness, or suspicions. For Jesus’ sake go forward yourself, and encourage others to do the like. Hell and the leaguered bands of superstition and infidelity are forward to the fight. O soldiers of the cross, keep not back.

Spurgeon’s reminder to actively seek Christian fellowship, use our talents, and share our blessings is a good one. Are there areas in your life where you’ve been holding back? What would it take for you to be bold in your service of God?

Today’s Devotional: Tending to the Body’s Hurts

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Do you find it easy or hard to care for those who are hurting in the Church?

One of the more intriguing and challenging aspects of Christianity to me is the command to sacrificially care for one another. Jesus taught us that humble service was man’s greatest calling, and that to be considered “first” we must do our best to be “last.”

This devotional from Today in the Word reminds us that in the body of Christ we must look for those who are hurting and meet their needs, especially when it comes to helping the weakest of our members:

As the church of God, we must compassionately identify with those among us who hurt. Moreover, when members of our body are honored, we celebrate together. This isn’t mere sympathy or polite applause. With the kind of a radical unity in the body of Christ that Paul has been urging, we actually feel for one another. As followers of Jesus, we become like Him and take on each other’s pain and celebration in an incarnational way. In Christ, our stories and our lives really matter to others.

We can see what Paul is doing as he answers the questions the Corinthians have posed to him on the subject of spiritual gifts. He’s using his answer as an occasion to retrace some of his themes of the letter. We must remember that the fundamental problem the Corinthian church faced was its disunity. The disunity has expressed itself in multiple ways: believers had taken one another to court, the community had divided over the issue of whether one can eat meat sacrificed to idols, factions developed between sexual immorality and sexual asceticism, and the Lord’s Supper had become another occasion of the rich shaming the poor. Spiritual gifts were another arena where the Corinthians had despised one another.

Paul teaches that every member of the body is indispensable. We cannot do without what might seem to be the weakest of our members. As infinitely complex and beautiful as the human body, the diversity of the church is there by God’s creative design.

Read the entire devotional at todayintheword.com.

Have you witnessed an example of one member of the body of Christ caring for another recently? What are some practical steps you can take to care for those who are hurting?

Combating Division in the Church

Monday, April 26th, 2010

In a recent post titled Unity in Diversity, Adrian Warnock discusses his approach to listening to voices within the Church that he doesn’t fully agree with.

The impetus of the post is the reaction of some members of the Christian blogging world to Rick Warren’s invitation to speak at the Desiring God conference. That John Piper would let Warren talk at the conference rankled some people so much that they publicly denounced Piper, and even went so far as to question the validity of his ministry.

The specifics of this situation aren’t all that important (if you’re interested, I’m sure google could help you find more information), but it does serve to showcase the sort of disagreement that happens frequently online. When we disagree with an action or statement a person makes, we want to dismiss everything they’ve done.

Warnock’s makes the point that regardless of how much we disagree with certain Christians, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them. He points to Mark 9:40 in which Jesus states that “Whoever is not for us is against us.” In Warnock’s view, outright dismissal of people we don’t agree with is rarely—if ever—prudent. At the very least, carefully listening to them might help us learn more about ourselves.

Here’s an excerpt from the end of the post that discusses the value of listening to voices from different cultures within Christianity:

There are many different Christian cultures about. We have each developed our own ways of doing church and doing evangelism. We each have our own languages. This can lead us to misunderstand one another and talk past one another. The truth is, we can learn much from each other. Warren’s roots in a very different wing of the church are, to me, a fascinating thing that offers an opportunity for me to re-examine some of my own assumptions that may be almost unconscious to me. By asking why Warren does things the way he does, without judging him for it, I can learn more about why the people around me do things the way we do. Even if nothing changes in the way we do things, the end result will at least be that we have learned more about ourselves.
[...]
We must learn to function more like one army of Christ, while respecting and maintaining our differences, unless fully convinced by Scripture to abandon them.

Read the entire post over at AdrianWarnock.com.

Have you ever been surprised to find that you agree with someone you previously thought you disagreed with? Do you think that we can learn from someone even if we have deeply theological disagreements?

Today’s Devotional: Will You Play Second Fiddle?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Have you ever wished you had different gifts?

The body of Christ works because of our differences. It’s natural to admire the abilities of other members of the body, but problems arise when we start to become envious and jealous.

This Daily Encounter devotional talks about the need for each individual to fulfill the role that God has given them. Sometimes that means playing second fiddle when we’d much rather be playing first:

“An admirer once asked Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, what was the hardest instrument to play. He replied without hesitation: ‘Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.’”

In King David’s day some of those who went to battle wanted to keep for themselves all the spoils of that which was conquered. They didn’t want to share the glory or the spoils with those who stayed behind the front lines and took care of the “stuff” (supplies and equipment).

In God’s economy, Christians will not be rewarded on the basis of his/her rank or position. Whether one is a church leader, Sunday school teacher, or janitor; the president of a company or the new kid working in the mail room—each will be rewarded on the basis of their being a faithful steward of the gifts and abilities with which he/she has been entrusted. What God is looking for to do his work on earth are second, third, and fourth fiddlers who are not seeking to glorify themselves but to serve God by serving others and thereby bring glory to God.

Read the entire devotional at ACTS International.

Have you ever needed to take on an assisting role when you didn’t want to? What did you learn from the experience?

What makes a healthy church?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

churchThis week at Gospel.com, we’re asking an important question: what does it mean to be part of the church, the body of Christ?

The Bible makes it clear that interaction with other believers is an important part of the life of a Christ-follower. While you could certainly follow Christ in isolation from other believers, our effectiveness as Christians increases when we work with one another. “Let us not give up meeting together,” we read in Hebrews; and elsewhere the community of Christ-followers is described as a body composed of many individual parts: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

So what exactly is a church, and what is it meant to accomplish? That’s a question we’ll be exploring at more length as the week goes on. But two articles by Richard Krejcir provide a good place to start the discussion. First up is What Your Church Can Look Like, which asks: what would an ideal, healthy, Biblical church look like, and what would it do?

What would your church look like if you took away the pastor(s), the music and worship, the buildings, the favored programs, the sacraments and ceremonies, as well as the events and Sunday School? What would you have left? The answer of what is left is what impacts and what resounds in your church, and is where your church’s health lies. Because doing church is not about the pastor, the observances, or the programs. It is about how we come to know and grow in Christ, connect with one another, and serve Him, both inside and outside of the church walls.

A church, then, is about helping its members worship God, grow in the faith, and serve Christ in their homes and communities. Is your church doing a good job of that, when you strip away all of its outward trappings? Krejcir goes into much more detail in a longer followup article, The Twelve Characteristics of the Healthy Church—it’s a lot to take in at first glance, but it’s well worth your time to walk through each of the twelve characteristics Krejcir lays out and ask how your church does (or doesn’t) embody them. And tune in later this week as we point to more articles about the church!